Tuesday, December 20, 2011

You Scream, Ice Cream...

I wrote this blog a few days before Christmas and never posted it for some reason! Another one will be around the corner!!
As usual, it has been over a month since I've last had time to blog. With the holidays around the corner, I have to actually write out a bake-off agenda to ensure I get everything accomplished. Because I didn't have enough going on, I decide to make three ice cream bases.
I started off with Eggnog and before I knew it I was crushing homemade candy canes for a Chocolate Candy Cane Crunch and toasting marshmallows for a Toasted Marshmallow Ice Cream.
The Eggnog Ice Cream was slightly icy for my liking, but the flavor was solid. I really enjoyed both the other ice creams A LOT, but the Toasted Marshmallow was the fan fave!
Until next time, and Merry Christmas!!!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Buche de Noel

UPDATE 6/25/13

A while back, my good friend from culinary school, Bridgid, invited a bunch of us over for dinner.  We try to do this every couple of months, but when you're contending with some crazy schedules, you'll take what you can get.  Somehow, I was nominated to bring dessert.  What the hell do you make for a bunch of pastry chefs - something obnoxious!

I've always been intrigued by bouche de Noels.  Also known as a Yule Log cake, they are typically made up of  a sponge cake with some basic filling and rolled. It is then covered with brown frosting and decorated with a wood grain so that it resembles a tree stump.  It is often garnished with edible leaves and meringue mushrooms and is a traditional holiday dessert served in France.
Anyone who knows me knows that a standard bouche de Noel wasn't going to cut it.  I need something more elegant.  I decided to fashion my bouche similar to the likes of Pierre Herme and Alexis Mabille. These talented pastry chefs have taken the bouches to a whole new level, elevating the sophistication of it - both in appearance and flavor. 
I approached my bouche as if it were an entremet, assembling it in layers of varied flavors and textures which included: candied pecan daquoise, gingerbread spice cake, Mexican vanilla bean and nutmeg buttercream, coffee amaretto mousse and a chocolate glaze.

Of course I had to top it with a sprig of sugarpaste holly.

The picture below is a plated version of the dessert that was used for testing the flavor combinations. The only component not pictured is the chocolate glaze.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Let Them Eat Cupcakes!

My friend Tara owns a cupcake business and makes the best cupcakes in town! It works out well for us because I really am not a fan of making cupcakes (especially in large quantities) and she hates making custom cakes! Tara gave me a ring to tell me about a benefit she was donating hundreds of mini cupcakes to, and because I apparently don't like to take advantage of my days off, volunteer to help.

We decided to stay seasonal and created a lovely fall menu. Tara tested out some recipes earlier in the week and came up with a deliciously moist apple cake. I suggested a salted caramel apple cupcake and we went with it. (P.S. I will definitely be stealing this apple cake recipe for Layers!! Sorry Tara!)

It was a good choice! They had guest judges at the event, including Vinny Buzzetta (The Cake Artist) at the event and we won Best Overall Dessert and came in second for best presentation. It's still up in the air if the pumpkins and hay bales clinched that or my wonderful decorating skills! ;)

Our other flavors were:

-Traditional Carrot Cake

-Classic Red Velvet

-Pumpkin with Brown Sugar

Monday, September 19, 2011

Merlot Fig Sorbet

Feels like it's been forever since I've blogged. I guess it has been. Unfortunately, by the time I get out of work and do everything I have to do, I don't have time for recreational baking! :(

Anyway, Emma tells me one day that she is upgrading her ice cream machine. I think she is crazy, but she offers me her "old one" so who am I to complain! ;) Her new machine is a monster and takes up half her counter space! (For those of you who do not know Emma, to say she loves to make ice cream is the biggest understatement.) So, when I finally had some free time to cook, I knew I had to try this bad boy out!

I noticed that figs were on sale at work and couldn't pass them by. I've loved figs for as long as I can remember. I used to eat them right off my grandmother's fig tree when she lived in Brooklyn and then when my Aunt Anna would harvest them and hand them out in egg cartons. Delicious! Naturally, I decided to make some fig sorbet.

It's been a while since I last made sorbet so I wanted to look for a recipe online. I couldn't find one that I really liked so I decided to throw caution to the wind and make up my own recipe. Typically, sorbets are just fruit puree and simple syrup. However, since figs have a mild flavor, I knew I wanted to use a complimetary flavor to give the sorbet some demension. The two flavors that came to mind were balsamic vinegar and merlot. The vinegar sounded a bit too aggressive for this, so I chose the latter.

I cut up the figs and tossed them into the merlot and added some sugar and a vanilla bean. I brought it to a boil and let the figs steep in the boozy goodness. After it cooled I pureed the mixture until smooth, ran it through a stainer and churned it.

Aside from the deafening noise, the machine is awesome! The sorbet came out good, too. I wish I had added a drop more sugar -to improve both the taste and the texture. Sorbet bases need to have the perfect amount of sugar content to come out just right. It is hard to tell if you have the correct amount of sugar unless you have a tool called a refractometer. This device is used to measure sugar density. Had I had one, my sorbet would have come out perfect - so I got one! Until next time...

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Groom's Cake

I was going through my posts and realized that I wrote this blog WEEKS ago and forgot to post it! My bad!! Here you go...

So groom's cakes are becoming more and more popular these days. There really aren't any rules when it comes to a grooms cake so things can get confusing. How big should it be? Should it be able to feed wedding guests? The one thing that is for certain - it's always a fun cake! Our client decided to present the cake to her hubby-to-be at the rehearsal dinner, which I thought was a great idea...

The obvious theme of the cake was golf - more specifically, the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. (Google it if you have time and love golf. It is a spectacular course.)

The flavors were vanilla cake with almond buttercream.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Del Posto

I feel like it's been forever since I've had an opportunity to blog. Since I barely have time to wipe my ass after I shit, blogging has unfortunately been hard to do.

So, instead of telling you about something yummy I've made (Hopefully I'll have something good for next weekend!) I figured I'd tell you about my latest meal...

Tonight I went to dinner at Del Posto with my good friend and cake partner, Emma, and her hubby Chris. It was delish! I had actually trailed at Del Posto while still in school. (A trail is sort of a hands on interview. You go and work an unpaid day at a restaurant to make sure you like the food, the job, and most importantly, the people.) Let's just say, at the time, it wasn't for me.

Emma had her friend - the Pastry Sous Chef - make us a reservation. When we walked in, we were very well taken care of. We were escorted to our table and were given an amuse before we even received a menu. The amuse consisted of a lobster and caviar toast (Chris ate mine. There was no way I was going near that!), pickled cabbage wrapped in prosciutto, and what I'll call a bruschetta shooter.

We finally received a menu and chose to do a tasting. Emma and I started our meal with a primavera salad while Chris chose the calamari. The presentation of the salad was like a canvas - a boutique of herbs, lettuces, flowers and vegetables with a pea puree, lemon and goat's milk ricotta dressing.

Then they brought out bread. Rut roh. i don't even want to think about how much bread I consumed. All homemade, they were pretty tasty - Mini baguette, lemon-thyme focaccia, olive ciabatta and pine-nut multi seed roll. As if that weren't enough, they were accompanied by imported Italian butter and a housemade lardo flavored with roasted garlic.

Next came the pastas which I will have dreams about for days to come. We started off with a ricotta filled ponsoti (think tortellini meets ravioli) with green and white asparagus and black truffle butter sauce. Sigh. Because one pasta is never enough, we then had Garganelli verdi (think penne but hand rolled) in a classic bolognese sauce. I had to restrain myself from licking the plate.

Our entrees came next. Emma went with the Halibut, Chris with Rib-Eye and I was adventurous (for me, at least) and had breaded, baked veal stuffed with broccoli rabe and fontina cheese served in a jus. Two thumbs up, definitely.

By this time I was stuffed. This also happened to be the time that our server asked us permission to have the pastry chefs choose our desserts for us. We had no clue what to expect. Being that it was recently Chris' birthday, they brought out a chocolate cake decorated with berries, chocolate and edible flowers for him to take home. The cake was replaced with a dessert amuse - salted cashew ice cream with orange zest and olive oil. I wanted a pint to take home. It tasted like a salty creamsicle with cashews.

Then we were each served a plated dessert. Emma had celery sorbet with figs in a balsamic glaze and breadcrumb coated goat cheese mousse. Chris was served Strawberry gelato with strawberries and pea cakes (I think!?) I was given lemon cake with slow-roasted nectarine and basil ice cream. Very good.

Then came "the cheese grater" It is basically a cheese grater with petite fours. We had little toffee pops, bomboloni filled with citrus pastry cream, a tartlette, dehydrated grapefruit and caramel candy.

Just when I was about to throw up, Roger brought out a chocolate tree. Basically, a hunk of chocolate decorated with... chocolates.

Can't wait to do this again!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Butterbeer: Lindsay's Belated Birthday (cup)cake!

Anyone who knows my good friend Lindsay knows she's a Harry Potter fanatic! A few weeks before her birthday I told her that I would take care of her cake because I wanted to make her something fun! Well, because I couldn't find pipettes (you may have noticed my begging for help on facebook!) I wasn't able to make them in time for her birthday.

I wanted to use the Butterbeer that is served in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios as a reference. Basically, it's a cream soda with a underwhipped, butterscotch flavored cream on top. I made a buttery vanilla cake and topped it with a butterscotch whipped topping. This is where the pipettes come in. I filled them with cream soda.

To eat, remove the pipette and squirt the soda into your mouth and chase it with a big bite of cupcake and frosting.

It was magical..... touche.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

European Flashbacks- Part 1 - Bienenstich

Every now and then my OCD kicks in full-force and I do something obnoxious like organize all my photos in my picture library. I have to make folders and sub folders until everything looks neat. I wound up going through many of these photos - specifically the photos from my last European adventure. As I was skimming through, I came across pictures I took of some regional foods that I tried. I though it would be fun to research these desserts and find authentic recipes.

My first stop was Germany. I flew into Frankfurt on a cold, snowy day and discovered that it was very commercial. This was slightly disappointing. However, after speaking with the concierge, I was given directions to a quaint part of the city known as Romerberg. It was an adorable square with some shops, a few restaurants and a bakery. Of course I had to try something. The bakery was very small. There was a counter filled with all different treats, each with its own little sign saying what it was. I looked for the most "German-looking" thing and came across Bienenstich. Bienenstick, or "Bee sting cake," is a dense cake (some may even say sweet bread) with a thin layer of honeyed almonds and filled with a whipped cream or vanilla custard.


Bienenstich from the bakery in Romerburg

The bottom layer with the honey-almond caramel
My finished version of Bienenstich

The Bienenstich in Romerburg was filled with whipped cream. I finally came across a recipe that looked right to me - and boy was it dead on! I prepared the cake batter and got the two layers into the oven. While it was baking, I made a caramel with some honey, sugar, butter and heavy cream. When the caramel was done, vanilla and almonds are stirred in. The almond mixture is then spread onto the bottom layer of the cake and baked some more. After the cake is cooled, I made a not-too-sweet whipped cream and piped it onto the layer with the almonds. The other half is placed on top and then sprinkled with some confectioner's sugar.

I brought this to my aunt's house and it was a hit. I'll definitely be making this again.

Salted Caramel

With Emma in Italy this past week, I had some time to do some recipe testing. For the past year or so, salted caramel has really been a "trendy" flavor. I do occasionally come across someone who hears about it and says, "Ew! That's gross." If you've never experienced the flavor combination, put a grain or two of salt on some (quality) caramel candy and enjoy.

To achieve a salted caramel buttercream, I made a salted caramel sauce. This is where things can get tricky. I like an American style caramel - think Milk Duds (so much for quality, eh?) I think most people like this kind of caramel but that's probably because it's what people are used to. Then there's the other caramel - it's usually a dark copper color and has a bitter aftertaste. Because Emma prefers this type, I decided to compromise and meet half way. Plus, I feel the salt goes better with a darker caramel.

I paired the salted caramel buttercream with out moist chocolate cake and garnished it with some salted caramel sauce and a sprinkling of Maldon sea salt. Yum!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Something Savory

I was skimming through the channels a few days ago and landed on PBS. Sometimes I like watching old school cooking shows like Yan Can Cook, Julia Child, etc. I happened to stumble across one of my favorites - Ciao Italia. The host, MaryAnne, was cooking artichokes and they looked yummy. I made a mental note to try them out one day. Surprisingly enough, we had artichokes on sale at work and they looked amazing.

There were only a few ingredients to her recipe - artichokes, garlic, chicken broth, salt, lemon, pepper, mint and parsley. I'm not a mint person, so I skipped it. My only suggestion would be to hit it with a splash of freshly squeezed lemon and ground pepper right before serving.

Here's the recipe...


4 whole large artichokes Globe or Romanesco if available
Juice of two lemons
1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
2 large cloves garlic, minced
Three cups of chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste


Remove the tough outer leaves of the artichokes.

Use a vegetable peeler to trim the outer layer of the stems.

Cut the artichokes in half lengthwise

Place in pan. Add chicken broth, salt, parsley, mint and garlic and cook until tender.

Remove from pan, scoop out chokes.

Serve warm with cooking juices.

As seen in Program 21o1

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Impatience killed the cake.

Things have been so hectic lately that I barely have time to just bake something for the hell of it. This past weekend, I decided that I wanted to test out some new flavors for Layers NYC.

During my breaks at work, I like to stroll through the aisles to look for any new and interesting items that might have come in. Whole Foods is always adding new offerings and I, most often then not, pick one up to experiment with. My two favorite places in the store are the baking aisle and the produce department. On this particular day, I was walking though produce and noticed that the first batch of cherries had arrived. I couldn't resist and that's where it all began.

I decided to make a Tahitian vanilla and cherry compote which came out so good that had I had vanilla ice cream, we would have had a situation! Instead, I used the compote to make a buttercream. As for the cake flavor, we have been talking about offering an almond cake and I wanted to work on that. After a couple of tweaks to the original recipe, we had a winner.

After the cake was baked and stacked with the vanilla-cherry buttercream, I decided that I wanted to cover it in a white chocolate ganache. I had even pictured how I'd like to decorate the cake. I had a problem, though. I didn't have much time to do this because I wanted to bring some for Emma to taste and we had a schedule to keep.

I knew I should have either not bothered with the ganache or not brought some to Emma so I could do it right. Of course I went ahead and tried to glaze the cake before the ganache had time to set and it melted away at the cake. What a disaster! The good news: It didn't affect the taste of the cake and Emma was able to give her seal of approval! The bad news: no picture. Oh, well.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Chocolate Trio

One day I'd love to open a dessert bistro. I already have a "working" menu and have been meaning to begin recipe testing to make sure that the flavors are perfect! Having at least one chocolate dessert is a must on a menu. Being that chocolate is one of my least favorite flavors, I really had difficulty coming up with a dish that I liked and that I think people would like.

As obnoxious as I am, I prefer simple flavors and presentation. I tend to go for something more rustic than fru-fru and my menu reflects that.

I decided to try out my chocolate dish on Easter knowing I'd have a full house of people to use as guinea pigs! The dish I created is a chocolate trio - Dark Chocolate Souffle, Milk Chocolate Creme Brulee and White Chocolate Gelato.

The Creme Brulee...

I know I said I'm into simple presentation - and I really am - but this is probably slightly obnoxious. I recently bought myself an egg topper (an apparatus that allows you to take the top off an egg with a straight edge) and was dying to use it. I prepared the custard for the creme brulee and baked it in the hollowed shells. (FYI - they are a bitch to clean!) I used beans to keep the eggs upright when baking and cooling. I really enjoyed making these. Due to the high chocolate content, the texture was in between that of a traditional creme brulee and a mousse - which I liked.

The Gelato...

I actually like white chocolate and was very excited about this component. I used a recipe from one of my favorite gelato and sorbet cookbooks, Ciao Bella. I am not going to lie, I was not thrilled with the recipe. I am angry at myself for following it so literally when I had a hunch that I wouldn't love it. I found it too eggy and had to tweak the recipe to make it more to my taste. When the gelato was almost finished churning, I drizzled in some melted bittersweet chocolate to add some more texture and chocolaty goodness. I garnished the gelato with some lemon confit. I was skeptical to do this at first but, I am so glad that I did. The citrus cut through the sweetness of the gelato and it was delish! The tweaked recipe is at the end of the post.

The souffle...

I feel that people expect to see a souffle on a restaurant menu and I don't want to disappoint. Not only was I going to try a new recipe, I also haven't made one since culinary school so I was not sure what to expect. It was relatively easy to make. I prepared a pastry cream-like base and folded in chocolate, butter and a french meringue. I wasn't thrilled with the rise and the look of the souffle (I didn't fill the ramekin high enough) but the taste was dead on. It had everything that I look for in a souffle - soft, decadent and a slightly gooey in the middle. Great success!

Here is what the finished plate looked like. I think this one is a keeper and can't wait for you guys to try it when I open my restaurant!

White Chocolate Gelato with Bittersweet Chocolate Drizzle

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces white chocolate, finely chopped (use a quality chocolate, not in a chip version)
1/2 tsp high-end vanilla extract or seeds from half a bean
1/4 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
3 ounces of melted bittersweet chocolate

Combine the milk, cream and vanilla in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolk yolks with the sugar until they lighten in color. As soon as the milk mixture comes to a simmer, remove it from the heat and, while whisking, slowly pour it into the egg mixture to temper the eggs. When both mixtures are combined, return to the sauce pan. Add the white chocolate and whisk it into the egg/milk mixture. On a low heat, gently stir the mixture (with a wooden spoon) until it begins to thicken and it coats the back of the spoon (about 185 degrees.) Be sure not to over cook the mixture or the eggs will scramble!

Pour the custard through a fine strainer into a bowl set up with an ice bath. Stir to cool down the custard and then pour it into a container and refrigerate overnight.

Process the gelato base in an ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's instructions on how to churn. When the gelato is nearly finished, drizzle the melted bittersweet chocolate in a fine stream. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze until ready to use.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter & Updates...

I hate that I haven't had time to post more, but things have been crazy! Emma and I have been working on promoting of cake company, Layers NYC (http://www.layersnyc.com/). Everyone's feedback has been wonderful! Between recipe testing, sourcing supplies and, of course, making cakes, I don't know how we work full time jobs! Also, on top of that, I have been working on another project for months (really years!) and just announced my new business endeavor this past week. I know it doesn't have anything to do with culinary, but this involves my other passion - music. Please check it out... http://www.statenislandgleeclub.com/.

Anyway, Easter is tomorrow and I am up to my knees in flour. I've been working on a special dessert menu for the holiday and am still making the components for it. My next blog will be about that.

One tradition in our family is Easter bread. Sometimes my mom makes it but I volunteered to make it this year. Our version of Easter bread is sort of a combination of a challah and a brioche. It is relatively simple to make but, between mixing, kneeding (by hand, of course), rising and baking - takes over 4 hours to make!

I would share this recipe with you but then I'd have to kill you...

Don't you just hate when people say that.

I know this hasn't been the most exciting post but just wait until you see how obnoxious the next one is! I will be sharing some recipes for that one, too.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Talk about boring...

I am warning you right off the bat - this post is BORING!!! I have been so busy with work, going to professional seminars, getting Layers NYC going, and another soon-to-be-announced project, that I haven't had time to even make scrambled eggs! Don't get me wrong, busy is good, and the over-whelming positive feedback regarding Layers NYC has been awesome! Emma and I have been receiving so many interesting cake requests that I can barely wait to show you the finished products! I recently have been giving a lot of thought about creating a timeline fo opening a storefront business. I know exactly what I'd like to do but I'm not quite sure where to start (and where to find a few hundred thousand bucks!) We'll see... Before I really start rambling, I am going to cut this blog short. I promise to have some fun posts in the next week or so. I do have an obnoxious dessert planned for Easter Sunday so hold tight!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Chocolate & Peanut Butter

Sorry it's been so long since I've posted. I just recently started a new job and am still adjusting to bakery hours. (I'm usually up at 4am now.) Also, I have a few other projects on the drawing board so things have been extra crazy. The main thing that has happened since I last blogged - LayersNYC.com is up and running!! We are definitely going to add more pictures and information in the upcoming months, but it was important for Emma and I to finally get it going. One of the parts of the website that was a challenge for us was deciding on flavors, both for cake and filling. There are so many that we just listed filling types and not necessarily flavors. We definitely will be changing that when we figure out the best way to do it! The problem really is - we can pretty much do ANY flavor! We put out a question on our Facebook page (look it up if you haven't - Layers NYC) asking out fans what flavors they'd like to try that you wouldn't be able to get in a conventional bakery. After scrolling through, we decided to try out a chocolate-peanut butter combo. I didn't want to just do a plain chocolate cake with a peanut butter buttercream - it had to be more intense than that. Also, peanut butter and chocolate are both dominating flavors and I wanted to make sure they were balanced. I decided to make a cake with both cocoa powder and melted chocolate in it. I diced peanut butter cups and folded them into the cake batter as well so that there would be a peanut butter presence and to make the cake a little fudgier. As for the peanut butter buttercream, I stuck with an Italian buttercream base and flavored it with peanut butter and Mexican vanilla extract, once again being careful to keep the flavors balanced. I am not really a fan of peanut butter, or chocolate for that matter but I have to say - this cake was delish! I made it for my brother's birthday so that my (brutally honest) family could give me feedback. It received rave reviews! Just to be sure, I saved a slice and delivered it to Judi, our fan who suggested this cake. She loved it, too! Looks like this cake will be available for order!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy Ending

Being that I have some extra time this week, I decided that I should experiment with some recipes that I've always wanted to make. I always write down things that I'd like to try but rarely have the time to actually make them.

For some reason, I've always wanted to make fortune cookies. They are rather simple to make (a basic almond tuile recipe) but are somewhat time consuming because they have to be shaped as soon as they are removed from the oven. This means you can only make a few at a time.

The hardest part for me, though, was finding accurate fortunes. Thank God I came across some of these guys...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pasta Night

After what feels like forever, my friends from school and I were able to get together for dinner. It's always a miracle when all of us happen to have the same night free, but it happened! The theme was pasta night, and my friend Emma hosted. Emma went to Eataly to pick up some amazing meats and cheeses for an antipasto, Bridgid supplied the wine, Wade brought a salad (or at least the components!) and Melanie brought in freshly baked rolls and focaccia. I made a pasta dough earlier in the day and then Emma and I rolled it out, shaped it and prepared a simple alfredo sauce. Making pasta dough is a little time consuming, but overall, a rather simple thing to do.

There are TONS of pasta dough recipes out there, the most basic made with just water and flour. Aside from all these recipes, there are different types of flour that can be used, too - semolina, all purpose, whole wheat, etc. Then of course you can mix and match the flours but that's a whole other story.

I prefer to make an enriched dough. An enriched dough is one that has anything other than water, flour and salt (and yeast, depending on the type of dough.) My recipe of choice is Anne Burrell's pasta dough recipe. It is enriched with both eggs and olive oil.

Here's the recipe. Any added notes are in blue text!


1 pound all-purpose flour
4 whole eggs, plus 1 yolk (use local, organic eggs if possible for this recipe)
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt
1 to 2 tablespoons water or more if needed
Put the flour on a clean dry work surface. Make a hole (this is also called a well) in the center of the flour pile that is about 8 inches wide (bigger is definitely better here). Crack all of the eggs and the yolk into the hole and add the olive oil, salt and water.

Using a fork beat the eggs together with the olive oil, water and salt. Using the fork, begin to incorporate the flour into the egg mixture; be careful not to break the sides of the well or the egg mixture will run all over your board and you will have a big mess! Also, don't worry about the lumps. When enough flour has been incorporated into the egg mixture that it will not run all over the place when the sides of the well are broken, begin to use your hands to really get everything well combined. If the mixture is tight and dry, wet your hands and begin kneading with wet hands. When the mixture has really come together to a homogeneous mixture, THEN you can start kneading. (At this point - before kneading- wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. This will make the kneading process easier!)

When kneading it is VERY important to put your body weight into it, get on top of the dough to really stretch it and not to tear the dough. Using the heels of your palms, roll the dough to create a very smooooooth, supple dough. When done the dough should look VERY smooth and feel almost velvety. Kneading will usually take from 8 to 10 minutes for an experienced kneader and 10 to 15 for an inexperienced kneader. Put your body weight into it, you need to knead! This is where the perfect, toothsome texture of your pasta is formed. Get in there and have fun!

When the pasta has been kneaded to the perfect consistency, wrap it in plastic and let rest for at least 1 hour. If using immediately do not refrigerate. (This dough will hold in the fridge for a few days. When you're ready to use the dough, remove from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to an hour.)

Roll and cut the pasta into desired shape. (A traditional hand-powered pasta maker is typically capable of making linguine or spaghetti. You can also purchase an extruder attachment for a Kitchen Aid to make tubular shaped pasta. Toss the freshly shaped pasta in all purpose flour or semolina flour to keep them from sticking. Before cooking the pasta, shake off the excess flour. I find that gently tossing the pasta in a strainer works well. Pasta can be shaped and then frozen, but I prefer to make the pasta on the day that I cook it. You can also make the pasta earlier in the day and then just keep it in the fridge until you're ready to use it. Just toss the pasta occasionally with your hands to make sure it doesn't stick together!)

How smooth and supple! (Calm down Anne!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tracy's Birthday Cake

One of my favorite cakes in the world is Entenmann's devil food cake - you know, the one with the marshmallow frosting and chocolate crumbs. My one gripe is that you need to eat a quarter of it to feel like you've had a sufficient slice. (Or at least eat the frosting off of half of it!) Anyway, I came across a version of this cake in one of my favorite Dorie Greenspan cookbooks, Baking: From My Home to Yours. It is amazing! There are a few steps to this recipe, but the time invested is well worth it.

I've been waiting for a good reason to make it, so today, I whipped one up to celebrate my cousin, Tracy's, $%*@!# birthday. (She's officially too old for me to post her age.)

The cake itself is amazing. It is like a kicked up boxed cake. Now, being a trained pastry chef one would think I'd be anti-cake mix, but I am not. So many people love it that it doesn't pay to try to convince them otherwise. Therefore, I try to use recipes that are close enough to what people are used to but are made from scratch and use better ingredients. After you make the batter, which has cocoa powder and melted chocolate in it, you stir in chopped chocolate so that when it bakes it gets all nice and fudgy.

The frosting is just a simple Italian meringue, which is my favorite meringue. A splash of homemade vanilla extract flavors it and then it's ready to be eaten - I mean used to frost the cake...

For the cake

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup buttermilk or whole milk, at room temperature
1/2 cup boiling water
4 ounces semisweet or milk chocolate, finely chopped, or 2/3 cup store-bought mini chocolate chips

For the filling and frosting

1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 large)
1 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

GETTING READY: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter two 8-x-2-inch round cake pans, dust the insides with flour, tap out the excess and line the bottoms with parchment or wax paper. Put the pans on a baking sheet.

TO MAKE THE CAKE: Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter on medium speed until soft and creamy. Add the sugars and continue to beat for another 3 minutes. Add the eggs one by one, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla; don't be concerned if the mixture looks curdled. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the melted chocolate. When it is fully incorporated, add the dry ingredients alternately with the buttermilk, adding the dry ingredients in 3 additions and the milk in 2 (begin and end with the dry ingredients); scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed and mix only until the ingredients disappear into the batter. At this point, the batter will be thick, like frosting. Still working on low speed, mix in the boiling water, which will thin the batter considerably. Switch to a rubber spatula, scrape down the bowl and stir in the chopped chocolate. Divide the batter evenly between the two pans and smooth the tops with the rubber spatula.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating the pans at the midway point. When fully baked, the cakes will be springy to the touch and a thin knife inserted into the centers will come out clean. Don't worry if the tops have a few small cracks. Transfer the cake pans to a rack and cool for about 5 minutes, then run a knife around the sides of the cakes, unmold them and peel off the paper liners. Invert and cool to room temperature right side up. (The cooled cake layers can be wrapped airtight and stored at room temperature overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.)

When you are ready to fill and frost the cake, inspect the layers. If the cakes have crowned, use a long serrated knife and a gentle sawing motion to even them. With the same knife, slice each layer horizontally in half. Set 3 layers aside and crumble the fourth layer; set the crumbs aside.

TO MAKE THE FILLING AND FROSTING: Put the egg whites in a clean, dry mixer bowl or in another large bowl. Have a candy thermometer at hand.

Put the sugar, cream of tartar and water in a small saucepan and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, cover the pan and boil for 3 minutes. Uncover and allow the syrup to boil until it reaches 242 degrees F on the candy thermometer. While the syrup is cooking, start beating the egg whites.

When the syrup is at about 235 degrees F, begin beating the egg whites on medium speed with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer. If the whites form firm, shiny peaks before the syrup reaches temperature, reduce the mixer speed to low and keep mixing the whites until the syrup catches up. With the mixer at medium speed, and standing back slightly, carefully pour in the hot syrup, pouring it between the beater(s) and the side of the bowl. Splatters are inevitable — don't try to scrape them into the whites, just carry on. Add the vanilla extract and keep beating the whites at medium speed until they reach room temperature, about 5 minutes. You should have a smooth, shiny, marshmallowy frosting. Although you could keep it in the fridge in a pinch, it's really better to use it right now.

TO ASSEMBLE THE CAKE: Put a bottom layer cut side up on a cardboard cake round or on a cake plate protected by strips of wax or parchment paper. Using a long metal icing spatula, cover the layer generously with frosting. Top with a second layer, cut side up, and frost it. Finish with the third layer, cut side down, and frost the sides and top of the cake. Don't worry about smoothing the frosting — it should be swirly. Now, cover the entire cake with the chocolate cake crumbs, gently pressing the crumbs into the filling with your fingers.

Refrigerate the cake for about 1 hour before serving. (If it's more convenient, you can chill the cake for 8 hours or more; cover it loosely and keep it away from foods with strong odors.)

SERVING: I think the cake is best at room temperature or just cool, but many people prefer it cold (the texture of the cake becomes fudgier after it has been refrigerated). No matter the temperature, the cake is so pretty it should be cut at the table, so bring it out on a platter and cut it into generous wedges using a serrated knife and a sawing motion.

STORING: The frosted cake can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days; let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving, or longer if you have the time.

Thursday, March 3, 2011


My friend Emma is always talking about making Nutella. Why she'd want to kill herself and make it from scratch when the real thing is delicious, is beyond me. Because of this, I decide that I want to make Nutella. After some looking around, I find the bas recipe I want to use from one of my favorite cookbook author's website, David Lebovitz. There's a fun story to read if you want to google it and see the recipe.

First of all, in case you live under a rock and don;t know what Nutella is - it's a creamy chocolate hazelnut spread. It can be found near the peanut butter in pretty much every grocery store. When I was in France, Nutella was EVERYWHERE! No, seriously. They even sold it in individual servings with dipping sticks. I was never really a fan until I had a crepe with the spread and bananas. I can almost taste it now...

I did have a problem. I couldn't find hazelnuts in the local grocery store. I wasn't about to search the island for hazelnuts so I decided to find an alternative. I came across some macadamia nuts and grabbed them.

Anyway, the recipe is fairly simple. Roast the hazelnuts with a small amount of almonds until lightly brown. Meanwhile, I melted two different chocolates (milk and semi-sweet) over a double boiler. While the chocolate is melting, bring some milk, milk powder and honey to a boil. When the nut are a soft brown, remove them from the oven and put them into a food processor. Process the nuts until they form a paste. (When you process hot nuts, they'll make a paste. When you process cold/room temperature nuts, they'll make a flour.) Add the chocolate and mix and then the milk mixture and process until everything is well combined.

That's it. (Unless you want to strain it to remove any nut particles. I didn't bother because I liked the texture.) It goes into mason jars and straight into the fridge where it will set into a perfect consistency for spreading.

Taste-wise, this version was a little more earthy and rustic. I am going to save some to compare with a batch made with the hazelnuts.

Time for a sandwich!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


This post is a little overdue. But, busy happens. This past week my friend Dawn and I hosted our first cooking class. It was a lot of fun but we definitely have to make a few changes to how we run future classes. The topic of the class was sauce. My friend Chris came with his mom, Carol, and we (they) drank wine while we prepared a basic tomato sauce, a tomato and butter sauce and puttanesca.

The most interesting thing for me was tasting the three sauces side-by-side. It's amazing how different the three sauces were even though they are all variations of each other. My fave was the puttanesca.

Every time I read my friend Emma's blog I am jealous that she is always experimenting with recipes. Everything she makes looks delish! So, I decided that I should do the same. I've had a ridiculously sized box of coconut flakes from Restaurant Depot sitting in my pantry so I decided to use some of that - but what to make?? MARSHMALLOWS!!

Marshmallows. I LOVE me some marshmallows. I'll take a gummy candy over any other. I find Alton Brown's marshmallow recipe to be the best one out there so I decided to manipulate it and make a Caribbean inspired marshmallow! I flavored it using the seeds from a Mexican vanilla bean, Mexican vanilla bean extract, rum and toasted coconut. Why Mexican vanilla bean / extract? Two reasons. Recently, Emma and I did a taste comparison of vanilla beans from Mexico, Tahiti and Madagascar. I loved the smokiness of the bean from Mexico. Also, my parents brought me back (the hugest bottle ever made) of vanilla extract from their trip to Mexico and I've been waiting for the perfect reason to use it.

Let's just say I'll definitely be making these again!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Groom's Cake

This past week was crazier than usual. I just had a million things going on. My only day off was Saturday which really wasn't a day off because I had a cake due! I made the cake Friday night and prepared the buttercream while Emma was on her way to my house on Saturday. We usually work at Emma's house because she has a beautiful kitchen with an amazing layout. However, since I would have had a ridiculous amount of items to lug to her house, we did it by me.

Anyway, the order was for a groom's cake in the shape of a NY Yankees baseball cap. As I stacked the cake and prepared it with fondant, Emma was busy making the brim and logo. Being that this was our third cake together, we really got into a groove and it was done relatively quickly.

Then came the decision - to airbrush or not to airbrush. We've wanted to airbrush our cakes in the past, however, there's always been some sort of an issue. Emma made the final call - DO IT!! It made the cake look even better! From now on, any cakes made by us will most likely have this finishing touch!

We had to deliver the cake to Verona, NJ which was about a 45 minute drive. I HATE the deliveries. They give me agita! Thankfully, this little guy was sturdy and small so there wasn't to much to worry about. When we handed the cake over to the reception venue they didn't even realize it was a cake so I guess we did a good job! ;)

In other news, Emma and I have been working on a website. Hopefully it will be up and running soon and then you can tell all your friends about us!!!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"I'm not your bitch, bitch."

Today was a fun day. This morning I headed to The French Culinary Institute to assist Chef Dave Martin. You may remember him from season 1 of Top Chef.

It was weird being back in school, changing into my whites, and heading into the kitchen. Chef had train issues and arrived later than expected. There wasn't much for him to worry about; us volunteers had already gotten the mise en place done.
This was my first time assisting at a school demo or recreational class, so I really didn't know what to expect. My first task was to make parfaits. I sweetened some yogurt with a drop of sugar and vanilla and sprinkled them with a granola that Chef had made. His secret ingredient - Golden Grahams. Pretty tasty.

After setting up some more mise en place trays and shredding duck (gross), I got to work along side the students making extra items for the buffet line. The theme was brunch. The menu...

-Malted Brioche French Toast
-Veggie Frittata
-Hash of Duck Confit, Roasted Yukon Gold Potatoes, Red Bell Pepper, Caramelized Sweet Onion and Wild Mushrooms
-Crab Cake Eggs Benedict served with Pineapple Hollandaise and Papaya Salsa
-Bloody Mary's and Mimosas

The people I worked with were very nice. Everyone helped each other out and, therefor, everything ran smoothly. It was fun helping the students get through their recipes. I think I'd really enjoy teaching culinary arts.

After the class, we straightened out and I was able to take a picture with Chef before heading home. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Le Crepe

I've decided to give blogging a shot - again. My friend from school, Emma, has inspired me to do so! You should definitely check out her blog - There's No Crying In Pastry.

My first crepe in France was at a stand adjacent to Notre Dame in Paris. I ordered the Grande Marnier and banana. The batter was ladled onto an electric griddle and spread into its signature round shape using a wooden tool. It is flipped twice and then brushed with the liquor and a sliced banana. It is folded and served nice and hot. The crepe was delicious - not too sweet with beautiful citrus notes and warm banana. I had to have one again, and soon, but without hopping on a plane.

I decided to use some Christmas money to purchase a crepe griddle (made in France, of course!) It's been sitting in my room for a few weeks now and I've been waiting for a reason to whip it out. Thankfully, I had a get together with some of my best friends from high school and I put the griddle to good use. While I was interning at Maison Carratie in Beziers, I learned how to make crepes and got my hands on the bakery's crepe recipe. After making a quick batch of batter and an apple compote (for filling the crepes) it was time to plug in the griddle.
I'm not going to lie, the first two crepes came out horrible, but, by the third crepe I had figured out the best way to spread the batter, loosen the edges and flip the crepe. We filled them with the compote. It was pretty good, but not exactly the flavor profile that brought me back to a street in St. Germaine. That's where we brought in the nutella and banana - another popular choice. Ding, ding! We have a winner!